Life comes with unique sets of challenges every passing moment. These challenges pose as stressors which cause several physical, spiritual, and emotional problems. However, how we individually, collectively as a family, or couple handle theses challenges determine the outcome. As human beings, it is normal to feel anxious but excessive worrying could become problematic. Excessive worrying that affects your productivity, social life, and overall well being is problematic. This problem is called Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD). According to the fifth edition of Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorder (DSM-5) GAD is a mental disorder. The DSM-5 requires the presence of excessive, uncontrollable anxiety and worry that occurs most days for at least 6 months for this diagnosis to be made. It also requires the presence of symptoms such as; restlessness or feeling keyed up or on edge, being easily fatigued, difficulty concentrating or mind going blank, irritability, muscle tension, and sleep disturbances. Furthermore, the diagnostic criteria for this disorder requires the anxiety, worry, or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. Also the disturbance should not be attributable to the physiological effects of a substance or another medical condition, and the disturbance is not better explained by another mental disorder. Therefore, if a person has become excessively worried, restless, easily fatigued, tense and unable to sleep and his worries cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning then it is likely that the person may have GAD. Some of these symptoms could also be attributable to obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). However, in this scenario the individual lacks most of the symptoms needed to meet the criteria for OCD because a disorder can only qualify as an obsessive compulsive disorder if the intrusive images, thoughts, or urges are not centered on more real world concerns. If the intrusive images, thoughts, or urges are centered on more real world concerns, anxiety disorder is considered. A good example would be if the individual sometimes experiences upsetting images about his or her grandchildren being injured or harmed when worrying about them. These thoughts are centered on real world concerns therefore do not qualify as an obsessive compulsive disorder rather an anxiety disorder.
Generalized anxiety disorder can be treated using psychotherapy or medication. Cognitive therapy and applied relaxation are examples of empirically supported treatments for adult disorders. Cognitive therapy for generalized anxiety disorder involves the following;
- educating the individual about generalized anxiety disorder (GAD) by teaching him or her how to differentiate between beneficial and not beneficial worry which will help the individual understand his or her anxiety and encourages a more accepting and active response to it
- teaching the individual to monitor his or her anxiety and its triggers, severity and length of each episode
- assisting the individual with physical control strategies such as deep breathing exercise and progressive muscle relaxation to help decrease the “physical over-arousal of the fight or flight response that maintains the state of fear and anxiety
- teaching the individual cognitive control strategies to help him learn to evaluate and alter his thought process that contribute to generalized anxiety disorder
Accordingly, religious beliefs and practices have been associated with lower suicide rates; less anxiety, substance abuse, and depression; a greater sense of well-being; and more social support in addition to other benefits and this should also be utilized as a form of treatment. As Christians we are called not to be anxious, thus “be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus”(Philippians 4:6,NKJV). It doesn’t mean that we wouldn’t have cause to worry rather God wants us to cast our worries at his feet when faced with worrying thoughts or challenges. The truth remains that the strength of anxiety is often underestimated. Proverbs 12:25 tells us that “an anxious heart weighs a man down.” Indeed anxiety commands a lot of strength when it isn’t addressed in a timely manner. It can spiral out of control, becoming a disorder rather than normal daily concerns. It is ideal to seek for professional treatment if your worries seem to be causing you pain.
American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and statistical manual of mental disorders (5th ed.). Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.
Treatment and medication for generalized anxiety disorder. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.helpguide.org/mental/gad_supplement.htm